[ACNS, by Bellah Zulu] Members of the Anglican Consultative Council, gathered in Lusaka for their ACC-16 meeting, experienced the diversity and vibrancy of African praise and worship when they were invited to worship at local parishes around Lusaka on Sunday as a way of actively “engaging with our local community for the sake of the wider community.”
St Peter’s Anglican Parish in Lusaka had a wonderful mix of both traditional and contemporary music and dance with the youth and children playing a key role during the service. “Looking at the number and level of investment in children in this parish, I can safely say they have a great future,” said South African youth delegate, Ncumisa Ngolwethu Magadla. “The level of praise and worship in this parish is great and I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit throughout the service.”
The Primate of Australia and Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Revd Dr Philip Freier, remarked after the service: “What an outstanding and joyful service! Of course there are many similarities with where I come from but the energy in African praise and worship and the language made the whole experience beautiful.”
“There seems to be great community involvement here looking at the participation of everyone from the children, youths and the elderly during the service, and I think that offers the parish a great opportunity to continuously tell people about Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Freier added.
During the service, the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, delivered a sermon on discipleship emphasising that “you cannot give what you don’t have.”
“If you believe that you’re a disciple of Jesus Christ, how do you represent him through your words and deeds?” he asked.
“What we do and say reveals our discipleship and so you can be an elder in the church, or even a bishop or archbishop in the church but if your words and works don’t reflect the teaching of Christ, you are not a follower of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Archbishop Josiah reminded congregants that it is good to come to church and belong to a congregation but challenged that real Christianity is revealed not just on Sunday, “but what we do on other days and in other places such as our homes, at work and hospitals.”
The host and parish priest, Father Robert Sihubwa, explained the heavy involvement of young people during the service: “We have taken a deliberate step to empower young people so as to get them ready for the future,” he said. “We have opened up spaces for young people to discover their talents and gifts through creative and expressive arts such as music and dance because this is how most young people discover themselves.”
Father Sihubwa talked of how the church is keeping young people from harmful vices in their communities.” If we don’t claim the young people by involving them heavily at church, we would lose them to the community and vices such as beer-drinking.”
He concluded: “We hope our visitors have experienced the joyful expression of our faith and our capacity to celebrate the diversity of our Anglican faith. I hope they have also seen the evidence of our growth in numbers because of our openness and emphasis on having a personal relationship with Christ and not just the order of service.”
Members of the ACC have been reflecting on their experiences.
The Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin from the Church of England visited the parish of Kaunda Square. “The worship [was] matched to our first Sunday in the Cathedral. I can only describe it by the word ‘joy’”, she said. “I saw this on the faces of the elderly, the very young, women, girls, children, men and even the infants.
“Their joy was expressed in dancing. I saw the elderly encouraging and affirming the young in their dance. It was clear that, whatever their circumstances ‘in this moment’, in the presence of the Lord, nothing would take their joy away.”
She said: “I was called ‘The Priest Woman’ who had visited them - [one of] the first to receive one in the diocese.”
The Revd Isaac Varaprasad Peyyala from the Church of South India was another ACC member at the Kaunda Square. “I am greatly excited and impressed by the waythe parish people have given a lovely welcome to the team of ACC,” he said. “A big procession with band music and songs is quite amazing.
“The participation of children, youth, men and women is very significant. The singing and dancing during worship as a part of their liturgy was very moving. The parish priest, the Revd Katete Jackson Jones asked all the members to stretch their hands towards us and then prayed for us with much intensity which is quite touching to me.
Another Church of South India ACC member, Bishop Thomas K Oommen, was at Chawama Parish. “The whole worship service was good, especially the participation – mentally, spiritually and bodily – of children and the elderly was noticeable.
He was joined at Chawama by the Revd Bartholomew Bol Deng from the Church of South Sudan and Sudan, who described it as a “low church with some influence from Pentecostalism.”
“They have different choir groups which sung very well,” he said. “The service was punctuated by many nice songs from different groups of choirs.”
The Archbishop of Cape Town, and Primate of Southern Africa, Thabo Makgoba, worshipped at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka. During the service he presented retired bishop John Osmers with the Anglican Church of South Africa’s Archbishop’s Peace with Justice Award.
“The Right Revd John Osmers has achieved distinction in multiple countries for multiple reasons as a consequence of his lifelong work as a faithful servant of God,” he said. “To name just a few of those reasons, in his native New Zealand he is known for his staunch record in fighting against collaboration with apartheid South Africa. In Zambia, he is known as the first Bishop of Eastern Zambia, as the Rector of St John’s Seminary and as one who served for some time as Dean of Holy Cross Cathedral in Lusaka. To Rwandan refugees, he is known as a doughty defender of their welfare.
“It is, however, for his defence of Gospel values to the point of self -sacrifice that the Anglican Church of Southern Africa is proud to honour him.
“First in Lesotho, then in Botswana and then in Zambia, he served as a chaplain to South African exiles, losing his hand as a consequence of receiving a parcel bomb from an apartheid death squad.”
Commenting on the service more generally, Archbishop Thabo welcomed “the solemnity of the worship even with two types of choirs” as well as the bring-and-share lunch which followed.
Bishop Eraste Bigirimana from the Church of Burundi visited St Peter’s Parish, which he described as “a vibrant church with a big number of young people.”
He continued: “They have choirs of youth, children and women – the Mothers’ Union. I have been touched by the Sunday School class with their three teachers. Their pastor is committed to youth ministry.
“I have been pleased by their sustainable programmes and projects,” he said, explaining that the local community was involved in projects from house building to the purchase of a van; although he recognised there was a “risk” to this level of “ambition.”
Mr Kwame Asiedu-Basoah from the Province of West Africa visited Mandevu Parish. “The inspirational moment from my visit . . . was the music-filled atmosphere that enveloped everything that the host did in worship of the Creator God.
“The music was the very outpouring of their hearts, the embodiment of the sinews of their bones and the movements of their hips. It was music sang by God’s people in service and in praise of their creator, and it was music to glorify God.”
The Primate of Ireland, the Most Revd Richard Clarke, visited Kefue and described “a wonderful few moments at the end of the Eucharist when I blessed, individually, somewhere in the region of 180 children.” He added: “I have never blessed so many children at one service. It was immensely moving as row after row of children came forward to be blessed.”
Another Church of Ireland member of the ACC, Maurice Elliott, visited St Philip’s Church in Matero parish. “First impressions last,” he said, “and no sooner had we arrived at St Philip’s than it became apparent that this is a church which is gearing for growth.
“Already a building extension project is well underway, which will approximately double the existing church. More than that, however, next year will witness the construction of an even larger and entirely new building on the field next door, with the “old” church being then converted into a suite of halls.
“What a joy and inspiration it has been to visit and worship with the Lord’s people at this place, and to sense their heartfelt desire to reach others with the Gospel of Christ.”
The Revd Nigel Pope was another ACC member who visited St Philip’s Church in Matero. “Three congregations of around 600 people gathered under make-shift tents to worship,” he said. “The service was the usual Zambian style of joyful and scintillating song and dance clothed in a high Anglo-Catholic liturgy.”
He said that the three-and-a-half hours “passed in a flash.” And that it was “deeply moving” to see the “200-plus children coming forward for a blessing.”
He added: “The love, hospitality and welcome was amazing. The colours and costumes were rich in culture and my heart was warmed to see that the Church was alive – truly an Easter people.”